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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sex ReSearch on Second Life – Zack Wonder Reporting






Avatars on Second Life (SL) meet challenges in dealing with other avatars on many levels. From day-to-day conversations and activities to very personal and intimate encounters, relationships are not always smooth sailing. Many avatars have gone through breakups both in real life (RL) as well as in SL, and have experienced the hurt produced by severing a mutual trust and the cessation of daily activities with the loved one. “Research shows that virtual-life breakups can be more painful than real-life breakups,” says Veritas McMaster (“Veri”), the leader of the SexReSearch clinic on SL and moderator of Healing Hurt clinic on Facebook. The clinic aims to heal hurt in SLand help avatars with their everyday challenges and personal growth. This is achieved by daily group sessions and private counseling.


SL Enquirer’s Zack Wonder participated in some of the clinic sessions and chatted with Veri to experience how they work, first-hand. He arrived at the clinic when the session was already beginning in the “Sex Research” group chat. First of all, participants were asked to scan their bodies and to rate their body sensations on a scale 1 to 10. The principle of the clinic is to equate visceral body sensations with actual emotions, and then to work out a way to “taper” the high ratings down to manageable levels, easing the anxiety of the participants. Veri and the Assistant Director, Charm Carter, facilitate the process working with one participant at a time. Not a whole lot of ground can be covered in the one-hour clinic, but unfinished business carries over from one session to the next. Zack witnessed many avatars participating in the clinic on a regular basis. Their problems ranged from simple domestic spats to insecurity in transgender issues and to finding “the right one” on SL. “I have a hard time thinking of things we've not worked on,” Veri said. “Many people come to me for private sessions and work their way into the group. Sadly, it's usually undeserved shame and guilt that they want to discuss privately.” Some avatars reported dropped ratings even during a 20-minute chat in the clinic’s group, and seemed happy with the process. The session ended with a group hug, allowing everyone to express their appreciation to the participants of the process. “Not only the one working gets the benefit of the session – they model the process for all participants, on-site or watching on group chat,” Veri explained after the session. Zack Wonder sat down with her for an in-depth interview.




SLE: What kind of avatars do you meet most often?? Regulars? Newcomers?



Veri: We've not surveyed participants for that specifically. It seems most are old timers in SL. We get some with new AVs, many of those are alts.


SLE: Can you relate some of the typical issues the avatars have seeking you out?


Veri: First heartache, 100% of those surveyed reported experiencing a painful breakup in SL. The next most frequent are gender identification challenges, sexual dysfunction, RL life challenges, and many who are working on self-improvement for themselves or their relationships.


SLE: What kind of help do the avatars expect to get, and what is the reality?


Veri: I can't speak to what they expect, that's a broad range. Because of our name, some come seeking sex and we refer them to one of our sister organizations. Those who come knowing what we do or after learning who want to balance anxiety, tension, chest ache (many call heart ache), sadness or arousal find they can do so quickly with the tapering method we employ. Those who have come and stayed long term have also found ongoing help from taking their ratings daily as they then have present moment information and the tools to get back to homeostasis.


SLE: How long do avatars participate in the clinics?


Veri: We have walk-in clinic every weekday at 9 AM. Most come for a specific need then stay engaged but not participating daily unless another need arises. Some come daily and become part of the team. We've only been open a year and a half. In that time there have been two major spin offs. One came about because Dr David Hubbard (DavidArguna), who developed the tapering method we employ, was so impressed with what we had achieved he asked me to start a live video clinic with him on Facebook, which we did, Healing Hurt Clinic. Weekly he leads three thirty minute sessions and a one-hour session the first Tuesday of each month on SL in Body Sensing. Some have learned our methods and are using them as part of their tool kit for working with others.


SLE: Can you describe a typical path an avatar takes toward healing?



Veri: Scan body for sensations (the body does not lie), rate the intensity/unpleasantness, identify source, take control (make a plot/plan to taper), repeat as needed until resolved.


SLE: Please describe the method used for healing at the Clinic?


Veri: The back story is really interesting. David Hubbard, MD, has a wide, diverse medical background. He started in pain management and currently has a clinic in San Diego working with opioid addicts. Osangar, the Doctor with whom I started this clinic, operated his fMRI machine and was one of Dr. Hubbard's grad students. Dr Hubbard developed the tapering method they and we use, based on one of Pavlov's lesser known theories. Tapering is now the treatment of choice in the United States. We are using tapering in different applications and testing it's efficacy. We are applying tapering to different applications and testing it's efficacy. There are many articles on tapering in the top medical journals and validating studies. Unlike psychological practices, the tapering method works because of what happens in our bodies and how the brain responds and processes. We do not work with cognitions, past or future. You essentially step down or lessen the dose by degree. What degree depends on what you are working on. Addiction can take a year. For our work with the sensations I mentioned, the average time is ten minutes to two weeks.


Veri also explained that it is revealing how clinic participants’ ratings and their ability to deal with their issues develop with time. “Our pilot study showed that 100% of those surveyed had experienced hurt (chest ache) from a SL relationship,” she said. “[The method is] based on neuroscience, taking cues from our bodies that don't lie. The ratings show us what needs to be tapered. Taking ratings daily or more frequently is a way to identify and keep track of what is going on. So the ratings do two things: show us where we need to work, and inform each of us personally on where we are in the present moment. Paying attention to the present-moment sensations keeps them from turning into symptoms and health problems, and the tapering method becomes a self-help process. Observing correlations over time is revealing and helpful, too. We are in the process of adding a Hunger Scale and Dr Hubbard is RL working on the problem of Air Hunger (our Chest Ache) for the Covid19 patients on ventilators. Free copies of our charts can be obtained at the clinic.”



With the tapering method, avatars coming to the clinic ashamed of their self-image or their destructive behavior patterns have experienced a way to reduce their unpleasant feelings on the road to becoming avatars with more fulfilling lives, less stress, and more balance. It is really commendable that professionals such as Osangar, DavidArguna, Veri, and Charm donate their time to these clinics, making SL a better place for all avatars.


Sex ReSearch clinic on SL:


http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/New%20Paris/52/54/1112


Inquiries: VeritasMcMaster Resident (Veri), Carmen Berman (Charm)
Group: Sex ReSearch
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